With its passionate reds, smooth flesh and yearning looks, Katy Perry's first American Vogue cover locates where romanticism, freedom and sexual desire meet.
Photographed by Annie Leibovitz, the Rodarte dress Katy wears is embroidered with red roses on top of an airy silk-satin; I can feel the breath on my skin just looking at that silk-satin. When I see those roses, I see Mena Suvari draped in nothing but roses in the film American Beauty, and that's what the photo seems to be saying: Katy Perry is an American beauty.
The exposed shoulder looks as if an invisible hand is pulling it down, undressing her, freeing her and hiking her dress up to the thigh. All she needs is herself. The dress in reality is long and almost floor-length with the fabric wrapped around gathered like a bustle. Although her leg extends outside the frame, I imagine she might be wearing the calfskin ballet flats she wears in another photo inside the magazine; the flats would give her a hipster look (Warped Tour 2008! where she performed), but bare feet would reinforce her romantic, goddess look.
There's also something very nostalgic about Katy, which is appropriate since Katy has made a career of bringing back pop culture past to unite Millenials. She looks like a young Jennifer Connelly, a similarly pale-skinned, raven-haired beauty who was the girl-next-door. This cover elevated Katy for me because it was the first time I'd seen her in an elegant, non campy way. Now every time I hear her music, I forever think of this cover.